Halloween warnings not paranoia

Halloween warnings not paranoia

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In a dangerous world, safety for children can never be taken lightly. If parents don't have to be worried about predators and abductions, they have simply to be afraid that moving about daily in an environment bustling with vehicles and equipment can pose serious risk.

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At no time are warnings to parents about dangers to children more pronounced than Halloween.

This year, we feel compelled at least to offer a view that Americans are going too far in their fear of the holiday and the associated fun for children. The government and media are blamed, also, for fostering the holiday hysteria.

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Iain Murray is a senior fellow with the Competitive Enterprise Institute. He writes on science, health and public policy and his work has appeared in publications ranging from the Washington Post and USA Today to the Encyclopedia Britannica.

In "Scaring Ourselves -- and Our Kids -- Silly," Murray has written: "At Halloween we scare ourselves with tales of ghouls, ghosts, and The Boogeyman. We adults know these stories are not true, but ... we've been spreading myths even we believe -- that homicidal strangers are regularly poisoning trick-or-treat candy. Every year, newspapers and television programs warn parents about this 'threat' with grave reminders to check apples for razor blades and needles.

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Even the Food and Drug Administration has joined in, warning parents to “inspect commercially wrapped treats for signs of tampering, such as an unusual appearance or discoloration, tiny pinholes, or tears in wrappers. Throw away anything that looks suspicious.'''

Murray says the facts just don't back up the hysteria.

University of Delaware sociologist Joel Best studied national criminal data going back to 1958 and found less than 100 reports of any kind of tampering -- of which almost all turned out to be mistaken or fraudulent.

OK, so Murray and the studies paint our society, its officials and its media as paranoid. That may be to a point, but the dangers on Halloween are more than mythical.

The holiday has been associated in the past with all kinds of mischief, including vandalism and even fires. Traffic makes the quietest of neighborhoods busy for several hours of trick-or-treating. The aim of urgings and warnings to parents is to prevent tragedy, period.

And warning children to be cautious about what they eat and from whom it is given is just common sense.


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